Suspicion one

| September 21, 2012

Because we are in the world, we are condemned to meaning…We witness every minute the miracle of related experiences, yet nobody knows better how this miracle is worked, for we are ourselves this network of relationships. Merleau Ponty

Every now and then I think that workshops are very important and this was one of those thens. I set up a workshop about workshop for workshop artists. 39 artists attended a four-day residential. The event was called the Moveable Feast.

I had a clear idea how I would begin the workshop. I would start with a story – a myth of origin. This myth was important to me because I used it a lot in different contexts. Sometimes I used the tale as a basis to enable children to make large puppet shows and at other times to talk about creativity or story.  Copious preparations had gone into preparing for the four days and all that remained to do was to have a last look at the book with aforementioned myth in it before turning in for the night. What happened?  The book had disappeared. It is nowhere. After frantic bookshelf searching, I had to admit defeat. The book was nowhere.

And so on the edge of the precipice of not-knowing that precedes a workshop – and make no mistake, the drop below was big on this one – my biggest prop of certainty had absconded.  This was neither good for my belly or my sleep but it turned out that another opportunity had presented itself.

In my frantic bookshelf searching, I came across a great telling of the Parzival myth by Lyndsay Clarke.  Perhaps there was something in this I could use. In  the back of that book, there was an essay about the origins of the Parzival myth and in the middle of that essay are four agendas for the 21st Century.  Having mentioned them, it’s probably best that I tell you what they are:

  • the need to renegotiate the balance of power between the masculine and the feminine principles (and not only in outward relationships between the sexes, but inwardly, as aspects of our individual being, whatever our gender)
  • the need to renegotiate the relationship between civilisation and the natural order (in particular the need to recognise that renewal often comes out of the wilderness, and sometimes in ways we do not consciously desire)
  • the need to renegotiate the balance between the ambitious claims of the ego and the larger, more exacting claims of the soul.
  • the need to renegotiate relations between conscious awareness and the neglected resources buried in the dreamworld of our unconscious shadow side.


Each time I engage with them these agendas make a lot of sense to me as journey markers. Preoccupied as I was back then by the loss of my creation myth prop, they seemed like a good fall back and an added extra. I remember that as I printed up and later presented these four agendas, I had little conscious agenda of my own as to what might be made of them except that they fitted neatly into my intention of splitting the group into four sub-groups. And so it was that four teams of multi-art form artists, who had previously spent little time in each other’s company, were catapulted into working together on bringing one of the agendas towards creative expression. As a result many of the participants were taken outside their comfort zone into another world where new collective and individual meanings were manifest in unexpected experience.

By accident and through a way of looking, without conscious calculation and through following rather than leading, I had opened something new for myself and others. I am not sure that there is word for this sort of unconscious intent but it is something we all do. The words that might be used are decision and choice. The truth is that being found by the four agendas as a result of losing my comforting creation myth was more like an act of applied intuition than a decision. Applied intuition requires trust and risk

And perhaps a fool. There is a necessary naivety to trusting that things arriving  out of the blue might just work even if you do not know exactly how.

My first suspicion is that we are at least as much creatures of circumstance as we are creators of circumstance.

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Director of School of Workshop

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